In today's episode, recorded live at the CEC 100th Anniversary, we were able to sit down with Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman. Dr. Coleman is a Senior Scientist, Emeritus, at the FPG Child Development Institute, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She directs many projects and has numerous publications including the 14th Edition of the seminal textbook, “Educating Exceptional Children.” She has served many terms on various councils and organizations and is truly a pillar in our field.
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Lisa Dieker 0:07
Welcome to practical access. I'm Lisa Dicker.
Rebecca Hines 0:09
And I'm Rebecca Heinz and Lisa, we've been thinking about the Council for Exceptional Children all season. And so today's special guest is a perfect one.
Lisa Dieker 0:20
Yeah. So we're so excited to have with us today a legend in the field and a past president of CCC. Mary Ruth Coleman. Mary, thanks for joining us.
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 0:31
Delighted to be with you today.
Lisa Dieker 0:33
Well, thank you. And we're so excited, just for those who don't have the privilege of knowing and getting to sit here and look at Mary Ruth. She's a past senior scientist or she's a senior scientist emeritus at the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, and she was past President Sisi in 2007. So I'm going to ask you a question. That might sound a little funny because we know you weren't President 100 years ago, but you also know that it is C C's 100th anniversary. So we're curious about what in your career in the past 100 years, would you consider to be most impactful or that you'd like to share with our audience today?
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 1:15
Well, it's interesting that you phrase it that way. Because the thing that I'm actually very excited about that I've been able to do is I've actually been able to become part of a living legacy, a living legacy in teacher preparation. And the way that I've done that is by becoming a co author on the textbook, educating exceptional children. And we're in the process now of doing the 15th edition of educating exceptional children. But the legacy goes back, it goes back to Dr. Samuel Kirk, who was if we want to say maybe the grandfather of special education, he was a president of CDC. And he was the one who kind of coined the initial term learning disabilities, to work with students who were really bright and capable, but we're still struggling in school. His students, Jim Gallagher, came on board as the second author, Dr. Gallagher is also a past president of CEC. And he came on board on I think, the third or fourth edition of educating exceptional children. And then I came on board on the 11th edition. And so this legacy of teacher preparation, and thinking about what is it that teachers need to know? And what do they need to be able to do to work with students with exceptionalities is an ongoing part of the Council for Exceptional Children. And the legacy has been passed on from mentor to mentee, from mentor to mentee. And at this point, we're working on the 15th edition, and I am now the sole living author. But it's my responsibility to carry this forward to carry forward the work of Dr. Kirk and Dr. Gallagher, and to carry it into the future. So this was the first textbook in special education, it was first out in 1960. And then here we are carrying it forward. And that's really, really, so and the teachers who use this I learn from that textbook.
Rebecca Hines 3:25
So you're part of legacy, you are part of the legacy as well, literally as the person who wrote the book on special education, we revise today's well, that your your whoever was reading, whether it's a revised edition or not, you can continue to carry this on. When you think about the needs in today's classrooms. What do you think are the most important things that teachers do need to know when they walk in that door?
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 4:06
You know, it's, there's so many things that are required of teachers and kind of the day to day like how do you use high leverage practices? How do you make decisions and how do you connect with families. And I think in this day and age, in particular, because of the high stress and the rapid change and the things that we've been going through, what's really important is that teachers remember why they became teachers, why they do what they do. And I want to tell a little story, to help us kind of understand and put in context, the importance of what it is we do when we choose to become a teacher. And the story is of a medieval traveler. This travel traveler is going from the rural England into London for the first time but Remember, now we're in medieval London. And when the traveller arrives, he's awestruck by the town and by everything going on, and by its being so busy and not really understanding from being from a very rural part of England. What all this means. He notices a huge construction project, huge construction project. And he's very curious about this, this construction project could encompass his entire village inside. So he goes over to kind of learn about it and find out about it. He's walking the perimeter of the construction site. And he comes to the Mason, a first Mason, and he says, Excuse me, good, Ben, what are you doing? And the Mason looks at him and says, I'm laying brick. What does it look like? I'm doing, I'm laying bread. Well, that wasn't exactly the answer he was looking for. So it continues to walk along the foundation. And he comes to another Mason, he says, Excuse me, good, sir. But what are you doing mask? What are you doing? And the second Mason looks at him and says, why? I'm building a foundation. This is what I do for a living, I earn the bread for my family. Okay, and he continues to walk around the perimeter. And he comes to a third Mason. And he asked the Mason, excuse me, good, sir. But could you tell me please, what are you doing? The Masons turns to him and says, I am building a cathedral. Now, teachers, you know, we can approach what we do from lots of different mindsets, we can approach what we do as what I'm teaching. I mean, I'm trying to make sure that hit benchmarks, I mean, I'm trying to follow the standards, that's what I'm doing, I'm teaching. Or we can understand that, yeah, we're building a foundation for that student and for their life, and we're earning our living, it's our job. Or with every student we meet, who we have responsibility for, we can understand that we are building their cathedral with them, that we have in our hands, the power, to shape their lives, to influence their future, to help them become and be the best that they can be. And when we remember that it's awe inspiring and humbling. And remember just how important what you're doing is for that child for that student, who has been given to you to care for.
Lisa Dieker 7:48
I love it. And with that cathedral analogy, I'm going to ask you a quick follow up question. You know, you you talked about this legacy, and you know, happened to be a University of Illinois grad and super excited, you know, you mentioned some legends in the field from from my alma mater, too, and I just thinking about, you know, what is that that consider, what do you hope is the message as you go into addition? 1617 1825 35? Yeah, what is that message that you hope the field will continue to hear from both your work and just in general as we move forward into the next 100 years in the field?
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 8:30
What I think is, is how important it is, I think the message is, take what you do seriously, take yourself lightly, of course, take seriously, continue to build that evidence base, continue to innovate, continue to look for flexible ways that we can adapt, adjust, and respond. And if we can build more flexibility into the system, through our special education initiatives, we can build more flexibility in the system in general. And as we get that additional flexibility to honor students strengths and needs, then all of our students are better served not just our students with exceptionalities. And I think special education. Sometimes we we feel marginalized or sidestep, or we don't recognize clearly that the work we're doing is actually groundbreaking. The work we're doing is actually forging the path for all students. Now when we talk about adapting and modifying and adjusting, we need to personalize it. When we talk about looking at how do we leverage strategies to create autonomy, those are now becoming mainstream. They're now in the classroom. They're now regular classroom. So the kinds of things that we do when we address the complexities of student learning are pushed into general education, and special education, we should hold our head high. And we should say, you know, our job is working with some of the most complex needs, working with some of the most acute needs, and learning how to teach under some of the most difficult kinds of circumstances, assistive technology that we piloted that we invented, that we began, is now mainstream. Yeah. So we need to realize that we are actually pioneers in the way of meaning a verb, we pioneer. And what we do, and the path we leave is followed by general education. So we should forge ahead and do it proudly.
Lisa Dieker 10:52
Thank you for reminding us why we're here.
Yeah. So my last question is just any words of wisdom for that new CC member, as they might venture into this in? You know, just maybe one quick tip like, if you're, you know, what, what would be your go to? If I'm saying, Why should I join CC.
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 11:16
So, the thing that we need to remember is teaching is hard work. It is, and that's a fact. But the good news is, we're not in it alone. None of us is alone. So we have our colleagues back at our school, we have our IEP multidisciplinary team, we have our families that we work with, we have the students, we're not in it alone. And the thing about CDC is that when you're a member of CDC, you're really not in it alone. You can't do it alone. So you might as well bond with your community. And CDC is your professional community, and it's your professional family. And when you're a member of CDC, you have access to all the resources, sure, the professional development, the materials, the books, the webinars, you know, the publications, all of that. But the most important thing you get as a member of CDC is membership in the community. You belong, you're part of the CDC family. And so the most important thing you get is access to other colleagues, access to colleagues who have wisdom, knowledge, expertise, access to colleagues, who can be mentors to you, or who you can mentor. And the community of CEC is really probably the most valuable asset that membership brings you. And being a member of CEC means that you don't have to do it alone. You've got the rest of us, and CDC is us. It's all of us. So we do it together.
Lisa Dieker 12:53
I love it. And I think that's true no matter what organization but it's really nice to have such great voices from CDC, representing this 100 year anniversary and celebration will thank you so much, Mary Ruth, we really appreciate you sharing your expertise, your legacy work in the field and having impact many, many undergrads over the years with that amazing textbook. So we appreciate you and if you have any questions for us as a field, please send us a tweet, at Access practical or post a question on our Facebook page. Thank you again. Mary Ruth, thank you.
Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman 13:24